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There s a rule of thumb that says implementation and training time costs should be 100 percent of the product cost, not just a three-hour session, hand them the user s manual . . . Smolin: So do you do any on onsite training Capistrant: Yes, at least locally. I think I ve gone as far as 200 miles, but I really hate it the loss of time with driving is horrible. And I m telling that more and more to people, Look, I m going to charge you for driving. Hopefully then it s at full programmer s rate because I m losing focus big time. Smolin: When you brought the product to market for the first time, what was, would you say, the biggest problem that you faced in getting it rolling from the time you decided you were going to make Federation a product until you were ready to sell the first, or install the one Capistrant: I think the biggest problem was realizing that it s going to have to be modular, and people are going to have to be able to turn things on and off. It s all going to be the same code. The only way to pull this off was to make everything table driven. So we had to rethink a lot of our menuing system to be a completely table-driven thing with parent and child relationships and be able to configure it quickly for a customer. And then the other thing really hard at first was making changes to the data structure the back end. Front-end updates are easy. Here s the new file. Back-end updates are a chore because they are using it every minute of the day. They don t want to send it to you. So we would manually do it and keep track of what the changes were, but that was horrible, and then finally we got it automated. We give them an updater which they open up, they browse and point to their data file, and it just takes them from whatever version they re at now to the current version. Smolin: So then, with Federation up and running and making you some money, how long was it before the second product Auction Central What caused that to come into being Capistrant: Oh, just my personal involvement with church and school activities. I just built something because it was needed at a silent auction at church. And it totally transformed the way people did it, and they were all excited because checkout was not a hassle anymore. So I realized that the program was pretty useful. I cleaned it up a bit. It s by no means anywhere the size and complexity of Federation but it s a cute little program that does a lot of things for silent auction. There s a lot of churches out there, and a lot of schools out there. Smolin: So you identified the market first, and then you went after creating the product and packaging it Capistrant: No, not really. I mean I did it on my own, for my own purposes. But then I guess I realized that it could be a product.
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Smolin: Oh, so you developed Auction Central first as a custom program for your own use, and then you decided to commercialize it Capistrant: Yeah. Smolin: And do you price this one the same way, you know Capistrant: No, this one has traditional product pricing. It s only a few hundred dollars. Smolin: How did you decide on the sales price Capistrant: [Long pause] Dart board I don t know. Smolin: OK. [Laughter] I m getting a lot of those answers. Capistrant: I just thought about the typical user of this, the customers of this thing and what they d be willing to pay. And I just took a guess at what the market would bear. So that s how I priced it. I think I d love to charge more for it, but I can t charge less for it either because it s still, you know, I can t do a $29 product. Smolin: Right, you have to sell thousands of them. Capistrant: Especially with database stuff there s a lot of follow-up and support. Smolin: But that wasn t the end. Then you developed another product called Critters for municipalities to track animal licenses. Where did that one come from Capistrant: That one was a custom program initially. There was a local municipality that hired us to make one from scratch because he wanted a system to do just that. And then by chance one day, we got another customer who asked for the same thing and I thought Well, there s a trend here. So we cleaned it up a little bit and made it a little more packaged. And then we got another one that asked for the exact same thing. So we said, OK, this is product worthy. By that time, we knew all the tricks about, you know, menuing and making it a protected product. Smolin: Yeah, and how s it going Capistrant: Well, there s not a lot of sales because I don t advertise it, and we re so busy dealing with Federation issues that I don t advertise anything, really. All the Federation stuff seems to come by word of mouth. I don t actually advertise Auction Central either, but a surprising number of people just find it by surfing the Internet. I m getting the feeling that we may be spread a little too thin. The last year and a half has been really stressful on the company. We ve been trying to do too many things, you know, do web programming and other product development. Smolin: So you would warn software entrepreneurs about getting spread too thin or taking on too many things
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